Editor’s Note: There is a full copy of the Cosby decision available at Bill Cosby released from prison after Pa. Supreme Court overturns sexual assault conviction (inquirer.com). Since reading the full opinion, I have made some modifications to the original post.
As Jerry Reed wrote some fifty years ago, “When you’re hot, you’re hot…And when you’re not, you’re not”.
Right now, Keith Raniere and all his fanatic followers are hoping that Jennifer Bonjean stays hot – and gets Keith’s conviction overturned just like she did earlier today for Bill Cosby.
Cosby – who is already relaxing at home and issuing proclamations regarding his innocence – had been convicted of drugging and sexually violating Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand.
He was serving a 3-to10 year sentence in a Pennsylvania state prison – and had just recently been denied parole.
Cosby’s appeal was based on his claim that Bruce L. Castor, Jr., the former District Attorney for Montgomery County Pennsylvania, had promised Cosby that he would never be prosecuted for the alleged assault on Constand. That promise is what induced Cosby to testify in Constand’s civil suit against him.
It was Castor’s successor, Kevin Steele, who filed charges against Cosby just 12-days before the statute of limitations regarding the alleged crime would have expired.
Cosby’s appellate attorney, Jennifer Bonjean – who is also representing Keith Raniere in the appeal of his June 2019 conviction on seven criminal charges – had argued that Cosby should have never been tried, let alone convicted.
“Mr. Cosby should never have been prosecuted for these offenses. District attorneys can’t change it up simply because of their political motivation”, Bonjean stated in an interview shortly after today’s decision was announced.
Although the decision to overturn Cosby’s decision was supported by six of the seven justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the decision as to whether Cosby could be tried again was almost evenly split – with four of the justices saying he could not and three of them saying he could.
In the majority opinion that was authored by Justice David Wecht, he described Cosby’s arrest and prosecution as “an affront to fundamental fairness, particularly when it results in a criminal prosecution that was forgone for almost a decade”.
Although justices said that overturning Cosby’s conviction and barring any further prosecution “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system”.
Cosby – who was once known as “America’s Dad” in conjunction with his portrayal of Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” – had argued from the outset that he could not be prosecuted by Steele because of Castor’s previous promise.
Castor even appeared as a witness for Cosby in a pre-trial motion to dismiss the charges that Steele had brought against him.
During his all-day testimony, Castor referred to himself several times as “a sovereign” who had the authority to give immunity to anyone without the approval of a judge
Mixed Reactions to Today’s Decision
Reaction to today’s decision was varied.
Some were very pleased with the outcome…:
– Phyllis Rashad, who starred as Cosby’s wife on “The Cosby Show”, posted on Instagram: “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted — a miscarriage of justice is corrected!
Geraldo Rivera Tweeted: “Told you so on #BillCosby. He was convicted by a court so tainted by public opinion and social pressure that it allowed obviously prejudicial evidence and improper witnesses. He may be a bad guy, but in this case, he was railroaded by the mob.”
Former NFL player Damien Woody posted on Twitter: “All the smoke should be pointed squarely at the prosecutor’s office in the #Cosby case for making that colossal error.”
#MeToo attorney Lisa Banks stated in an interview: “Certainly the optics of this are terrible. But the message must be very clear and simple — that this was a mistake by prosecutors, a very unusual one and a technicality that is unlikely to happen again.”
Others not so much:…
Amber Tamblyn, an actress and #MeToo activist, posted on Twitter: “I am furious to hear this news. I personally know women who this man drugged and raped while unconscious. Shame on the court and this decision.”
Actress Rosanna Arquette posted on Twitter: “I know many young women and men who are so afraid to press charges against their rapist and retraumatize themselves I am heartbroken today to hear of the news of Cosby’s release. This is sickening. My heart is with my sister survivors. We have work to do.”
Stewart Ryan, who was one of the lead prosecutors during Cosby’s trial and who is now a criminal defense attorney in private practice, said in an interview: “When you look at what happened, the fact that a jury reached a conclusion after a trial where they heard evidence, there was nothing about the opinion today that detracted from that. I think that’s important for people like Andrea and other women who came forward.”
Actress Debra Messing posted on Twitter: “To every woman who was sexual assaulted by #BillCosby my heart hurts for you today and I am full fury. It’s horrifying.”
Is Keith Raniere Also Going to Be Freed?
So, what does all this mean for Keith Raniere?
Should he start giving away all the goods he has accumulated since he arrived at Tucson USP – and start packing up the few belongings he plans to take with him when he leaves?
Will he be facing a re-trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) – or will he, like Bill Cosby, be set free and never prosecuted again?
Unfortunately for Keith, today’s decision in the Cosby case has zero applicability to his case.
Although Keith may have been promised immunity by Albany County D.A. David Soares, such a promise would have no bearing on his prosecution and conviction in the EDNY.
And even if Keith beats odds that are similar to those offered by the New York Lottery and gets his conviction overturned, there is little chance that the EDNY prosecutors will choose not to retry him.
So, while America’s Dad may be joyful with today’s outcome in his case, New York’s Narcissistic Sex Trafficker should find little comfort in that outcome.
Many courtroom observers had long ago predicted that Cosby’s conviction would likely get overturned for the very reasons that were cited in today’s majority opinion.
Thus, although Bonjean will undoubtedly cite today’s decision as another indication of her virtuosity as an appellate lawyer – and likely consider raising her already exorbitant fees – it was really not a big deal from a legal standpoint.
What the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said is that Cosby should never have been arrested and prosecuted – not that there were any legal errors in his trial.
That, of course, is not an argument that Bonjean included in her appellant brief on behalf of Keith.
And that is why there is absolutely no reason for Keith or his remaining followers to be feeling joyful tonight – and why those who were victimized by him and his slave-masters should not lose a minute of sleep out of concern that he’s going to walk free in their lifetime.
I haven’t read any comments about this yet, but it seems inevitable to me that Cosby will be suing Montgomery County and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a boatload of money.
The 83-year-old Cosby had been imprisoned for almost two years.
Although it’s hard to put a value on that time, I would expect he will seek multiple millions.
And I expect he’ll either get a large pre-trial settlement or win a tidy sum via a trial.
And who says that crime doesn’t pay?